Bobi Wine*
Political Leader, former Member of Parliament, Singer, Actor and Academy Award Nominee
Speaker at Copenhagen Democracy Summit 2023

Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, famously known as Bobi Wine, is a musician turned politician who is the current leader of the National Unity Platform (NUP) and the People Power Movement. Bobi was born in Mpigi District in Uganda on 12th February 1982. He grew up in the Kamwokya slums in the northeast part of Kampala. His mother was a nurse and his father a veterinarian and farmer. Bobi is a singer, musician, actor, and activist. He has campaigned for hospital sanitisation, malaria prevention, refugees’ rights, and children's education. His songs are known as “peaceful protest” and “edutainment” (a mix between education and entertainment), focusing on the struggles of low-income earners in Uganda’s ghettos and calling upon young people to join politics and change their country’s destiny. He is married to Barbara Itungo Kyagulanyi, known as Barbie, with whom he has four children.

In June of 2017, he entered the political arena upon winning the Kyaddondo East parliamentary by-election. After he was sworn in, Bobi told journalists at parliament that “He had brought the ghetto to parliament.” He instantly became a voice for Uganda’s youth in the nation’s less-than-democratic political system. His characteristic enthusiasm for democratic discourse and the popularity he had earned from his prior artistic and philanthropic endeavors successfully endured his transition to politics. The same sharp-tongued rhetoric and bold opposition that won Bobi the public’s favor in the 2017 by-election drew equal attention from political opponents and state security forces alike.

On August 14, 2018, Bobi was in Arua, campaigning for an opposition member of parliament, Kasiano Wadri. Bobi Wine’s hotel was cordoned off by SFC officers, and he was brutally arrested, ostensibly detaining him for “obstructing the presidential motorcade.” He was then later handed over to military custody, while charges were changed to illegal possession of a firearm (though this would be a civil case). During his time in detention, Bobi was subjected to severe beatings and torture, breaking his ribs, and given multiple injections. The court-martial would later drop their gun charges on August 23rd 2018, and Bobi was then re-arrested by police on charges of treason. This case has since gone silent. His legal team and supporters maintain that Bobi Wine is a victim of extreme political persecution and abuse by the Ugandan authorities.

Bobi under the NUP and the People Power movement ran for the 2021 Ugandan presidential election, losing to president Yoweri Kaguta Museveni. The results have been largely contested by Bobi and the public in general. Bobi’s presidential campaigns were marred with violence from the police and other security branches. He survived multiple assassination attempts during the campaigns. His supporters braved kidnapping, arrest, tear gas, and live bullets on his campaign trail. In November 2020, Bobi Wine was arrested while on his campaign trail in Luuka district on allegations of breaking covid restrictions; his arrest sparked two days of protest leading to the death of over 52 supporters and members of the public. The military and other state security divisions on the 18th and 19th of November 2020 shot and killed civilians who were protesting Bobi’s arrest. On December 13th, 2020, just a month before the election Bobi Wine’s campaign team of over 100 people, including his singing partner, Nubian Li, were arrested while on their way to the campaign in Kalangala Islands. There were reports of torture and political persecution. They were arranged in a military court on treason charges and inciting violence after a month of being held incommunicado.

The 2021 election results were announced while Bobi Wine was under house arrest, his supporters had been kidnapped and a tense mood of fear and intimidation was cased over the country. The election results have been disputed by Bobi Wine and much of the Ugandan public. Bobi Wine continues to lead the NUP, the largest opposition political party in Uganda, and has become the main opposition leader to President Museveni’s rule.

Talks at Copenhagen Democracy Summit 2023